I have to admit that “self-help-y”, “relationship-y” books and studies just don’t appeal much to me. I’ve read my share in the past and have found the vast majority of them to be mostly fluff and pop psychology, if not downright contrary to the Bible. So I can’t say that I was super thrilled about reading Marriage Forecasting: Changing the Climate of Your Relationship One Conversation at a Time by Tim Muehlhoff. In fact, I put it off for several weeks after it arrived. It seemed like it would be just more of the same.
Yet once I finally picked it up, I was pleasantly surprised! It’s packed with practical application based on sound Biblical principles. I found myself actually enjoying the book. Dr. Muehlhoff’s premise is that marriages are a lot like the weather. Some marriages enjoy a stable climate, some have an unpredictable one, and many are somewhere in between. When it comes to communication in a marriage, knowing how to communicate and use the right words is only part of the battle. Knowing the climate that the conversation is taking place in is just as important is what is said and how it’s said. Sometimes postponing important discussions to work on improving the marital climate is wise.
What exactly is a communication climate? It’s “the overarching sense of value and satisfaction individuals feel as they interact with each other and go about daily activities.” (p. 20). According to Dr. Muehlhoff, the four key elements of a communication climate are acknowledgment, trust, expectations, and commitment. He goes on to unpack these elements in the context of marriage, discussing how to “take a reading” of your marital climate, improve the climate, and deal with conflict and disagreement productively and biblically. He wraps up with an excellent chapter on forgiveness, a brief chapter on abuse, and another on our most important communication climate: the one between us and God.
I found the book clearly written, biblical, and full of grace and humor. The many personal examples helped bring the concepts home. The last half, which focuses on conflict, forgiveness, and our communication climate with God, particularly spoke to me. Throughout, there are plenty of nuggets of wisdom and biblical principles that can apply to any relationship, even though the focus is on marriage.
It’s incredibly refreshing to find a book that takes solid biblical principles and applies them to relationships and communication rather than taking pop psychology techniques and proof-texting to support them.
Of course, if your marriage is in serious trouble or you’re in an abusive situation, neither this book nor any other is going to be able to solve your issues…you should seek counseling. For most of us who are dealing with the normal ups and downs of relationships, though, Marriage Forecasting will be very beneficial.
So in the end, I must say that this is one “relationship” book that I can recommend!